A strong undercurrent of Aussie black humour helps make this revolting story just about palatable, although the solid cast struggles to make the idiotic characters very likeable. The film owes a lot to the Coen Brothers’ classic Fargo, as a group of people make ridiculous decisions that lead to pain, conflict and death in a situation so complex that no one has a clue what’s really going on. There are some very funny moments, but the filmmakers’ real goal is to gross the audience out. And that they do.
Yes, this is literally an anal-retentive story, told with bone-dry wit by a group of filmmakers that includes actors Sampson and Whannell (who play ghostbusters Tucker and Specs in the Insidious movies). The film moves at a surprisingly slow pace, never building up much energy but keeping everything luridly trashy as these chucklehead characters flail pointlessly against everything that goes against them. Each person thinks they’re in control, but no one is. And only the underused women are truly likeable: Georgina Haig as Ray’s sassy-savvy public defender and Noni Hazlehurst as his increasingly frazzled mother.Based on a true story from 1983 Melbourne, the film centres on Ray (Angus Sampson), a geeky TV repairman who wins the annual prize in his local football club and suddenly finds himself invited to the cool parties with the team captain, his childhood friend Gavin (Leigh Whannell). The club’s president Pat (John Noble) wants Gavin to travel to Bangkok to collect a shipment of heroin, and Gavin talks Ray into doing the job, swallowing 20 heroin-filled pods. When Ray panics on reentering Australia, he’s picked up by federal agents Croft and Paris (Hugo Weaving and Ewen Leslie) and held for seven days in a hotel room. But Gavin refuses to move his bowel, confounding them. Meanwhile, Pat is on a rampage trying to find his missing drugs and make sure Ray doesn’t spill the beans, as it were.
But even with nonstop poo and fart gags, this film is extremely dark. Desperate men turn to violence and murder when they don’t know what else to do, and several sequences are very grisly. Although they pale in comparison to one awesomely vulgar set-piece that with have viewers moaning with disgust. Thankfully, all of the actors manage to find some interesting layers in their characters, bringing out both deadpan humour and some jagged emotions. And in the end, the film hangs on whether or not you can sympathise with Ray in his predicament. If you start rooting for him to hold it all in for another day, the filmmakers have got you in their grip.